So, we’re halfway through October, Halloween is creeping up fast and The Walking Dead was back this week (squee!) so I hope you’re all getting your spook on 🙂 It’s also Wednesday, which means some more zombie facts for you. Now, we all know that there are various ways in which zombies can be ‘made’ and the focus in most modern books, films and tv shows is through a kind of mutation of the human cells, either through contracting a virus or exposure to some form of toxicity, eg radiation. While I can understand the reasoning for this – it gives it a much deeper sense of realism in today’s world, which makes the idea much scarier (hey, who knows if it could happen!) – in my own novel I’ve gone the more ‘traditional’ route and the zombie raising is done by magic, or more specifically necromancy. I hope you’ll forgive me then if I tend to stick to this side of things in my facts! Today, we’ll have a wee look at the fun art of necromancy – it’s a dying skill don’t you know (lol, and I didn’t even mean to do that pun!). Enjoy your mid-week 🙂
Necromancy is thought to have its early roots in shamanism, which calls about spirits such as the ghosts of their ancestors. The earliest written account is in Homer’s Odyssey, where Odysseus travelled to the underworld in order to speak to the dead, with the help of spells from the sorceress Circe. Many early accounts were very descriptive as to the nature of necromanic rituals, which could include things like magic circles, wands, sacrificial animals and special chants and incantations.
Necromancy was also mentioned in the Bible, with a warning to stay away from it! Though, later Christian writers balked at the very idea that a human could raise the dead and it was instead implied that the spirits and undead bodies that were raised were actually demons, disguising themselves in the form of dead people who had previously been known to the caster. This eventually came to be known as ‘demonic magic’ by Christianity was strongly condemned by the Catholic Church in particular.
In spite of this though, many practitioners of necromancy in medieval times were actually from the clergy. It was considered to be a mix of astral magic, taken from Arabic influences, and exorcism, taken from mainly Christian and Jewish rites. It was believed three main things could be achieved with this type of necromancy; manipulating the will and mind of another person or spirit, illusions, mainly involving reanimation of the dead, and knowledge that could be gained from these spirits (or demons, depending on the beliefs of the caster).
It was claimed by some that necromancy was a third and separate branch of ceremonial magic. Not black and not white, which is an interesting view when many through the ages have considered ‘death magic’ as the ultimate in black arts.